Hotel Lux (film)
|Directed by||Leander Haußmann|
|Produced by||Corinna Eich
|Written by||Leander Haußmann
from themes by Uwe Timm and Volker Einrauch
|Music by||Ralf Wengenmayr|
|Edited by||Hansjörg Weißbrich|
|Distributed by||Bavaria Film|
Hotel Lux is a 2011 German period film directed by Leander Haußmann. The tragicomedy begins in Nazi Germany and moves to the Soviet Union. Featuring the main character Hans Zeisig, an apolitical comedian, the picture involves him with numerous historical facts and figures of this era.
In 1933, as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis come to power in Germany, actor and comedian Hans Zeisig (Michael Herbig) and his partner, Siggi Meyer (Jürgen Vogel), have a successful comedy act at a Berlin cabaret doing impersonations of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Meyer is politically active in the Communist Party and through him, Zeisig meets the attractive Dutch communist Frida (Thekla Reuten). Zeisig is apolitical; he's dreaming about a career in Hollywood. He finds the growing political tension an unpleasant nuisance, but Meyer is endangered by the Nazis' power grab. He arrives one day at the theater with a black eye from an attack and says he is going to go underground. Another performer, a Nazi supporter who caricatures a Jewish man, makes a wisecrack about Meyer's black eye. They get into a backstage brawl, fully made up and in costume—the Nazi as a Jew and the Communist as Hitler. The fight careens its way from the dressing room to the stage, with "Hitler" on top of the "Jew". The audience, larded with uniformed Nazis, assumes it to be part of the show and cheers.
The situation continues to deteriorate in Germany. Audiences grow dour, and the theater management has to comply with the prevailing Gleichschaltung. Kristallnacht occurs. Zeisig refuses to perform the defamatory act of the stereotyped Jew. When he is told that it won't do anybody harm, Zeisig states, "It will harm me!" He goes onstage clad as Hitler and satirizes him, knowing he will have to flee. Zeisig learns Meyer has been arrested and deported to Oranienburg concentration camp. Equipped with a forged passport, a fake beard and an assumed name, Zeisig leaves Germany and eventually enters the Soviet Union. His goal is still Hollywood. In Moscow, he arrives at the Hotel Lux (this was a historic hotel in Moscow, where many exiled German Communists sought shelter during the Nazi era).
Zeisig encounters Frida, who under a different name, has an important position in the exiled German Communist Party. He also encounters numerous historical figures, such as Walter Ulbricht, Herbert Wehner and others, who later became important political figures in East Germany. The apolitical Zeisig has landed in a hotbed of political intrigue; all important conversations are held with the water running to shield them from the ubiquitous bugs. Zeisig wonders if he is in more danger at the Moscow hotel than he was in Nazi Germany. Taken for a ride to an unknown location, he learns his assumed identity is that of Hitler's astrological advisor, a person of great interest to Stalin. Zeisig is taken to Stalin in the only available safe place, the bathroom. Stalin motions for him to come forward, but remain silent. Stalin turns the water on and only then begins to speak. With Stalin's Great Purge underway, Zeisig realizes that his life depends on his ability to placate the leader. Zeisig narrowly escapes one danger after another, revives his friendship with Meyer, and gains Frida's support.
Hotel Lux was in pre-production more than four years; the script was worked on by two screenwriters. Herbig, a popular comedian, actor, and director known as a perfectionist, required more changes before he would sign on. He found the first versions of the script to be "too dramatic, too brutal," but joined the production after a lighter tone was reached. Herbig said he could finally relate to the character, a clueless comedian.
Luckily, Herbig has personality with a capital "P," and the popular spoofer has great fun channeling the aura of stars from cinema's past. The same can be said of Haussmann's entire concept, utilizing devices from another era including elaborate studio sets, matte paintings, dolly shots and the like. It's playfully old-fashioned and visually pleasing
Hotel Lux is an entertainingly meandering historical comedy that begins in Nazi Germany in 1933 and moves to the Soviet Union five years later. Oscillating between drama and farce, the film boasts rich cinematography and elaborate historical production design.
The official German film evaluation institution Deutsche Film- und Medienbewertung rated Hotel Lux as "especially valuable" (besonders wertvoll), the highest rating possible.
The production company has released teaching materials related to the film.
Notable figures portrayed or mentioned (selection)
Other historical references (selection)
- You Nazty Spy!
- I'll Never Heil Again
- The Great Dictator (1940)
- To Be or Not to Be (1942)
- Der Fuehrer's Face
- La Grande Vadrouille
- To Be or Not to Be (remake, 1983)
- Life Is Beautiful (1997)
- Herbert Spaich, Film review, Filmspaicher Das SWR-Kino-Blog (October 29, 2011). Retrieved November 13, 2011 (in German)
- Catherine Hickley, "Stalin Cavorts With Hitler in Communist Spoof ‘Hotel Lux’: Film", Bloomberg News (November 2, 2011). Retrieved November 13, 2011
- Alexander Cammann, "Müde Kalauer im roten Bunker" Die Zeit (October 23, 2011). Retrieved November 13, 2011 (in German)
- Magdi Aboul-Kheir, ""Hotel Lux" oder: Wenn Leander Haußmann mit Bully eine Komödie dreht", Tagblatt (September 20, 2011) (in German)
- Nick Vivarelli,"First deals to trickle through are buzzed black comedy "Hotel Lux," by Leander Haussmann, sold by Bavaria Film to Italy's Archibald, and "Noordzee Texas," by Belgium's Bavo Defurne, picked up by Italo specialty label Atlantide from Wavelength Pictures", Variety, Retrieved December 25, 2011
- Scott Roxborough,"AFM 2011: Bavaria Sells 'Hotel Lux' to Italian Distributor Archibald Film", The Hollywood Reporter, Retrieved December 25, 2011
- Jay Weissberg (2011-11-15). "Film Review". Variety.com. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
- "Film Review". Psfilmfest.org. 2011-12-23. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
- Filmheft LUX (Teaching materials) (PDF) Hotel Lux film website. Retrieved November 9, 2011 (in German)